Mirror and cosmetics
byryo/iStock/Getty Images

The beauty industry has adopted hyaluronic acid as the best hydrating and wrinkle-plumping ingredient in the cosmetic industry. Found in everything from moisturizers and serums to mascara and lip gloss, no other ingredient has been as widely praised and incorporated as this acid -- and for good reason. Dr. James Meschino, author of "The Wrinkle Free Zone," contends that hyaluronic acid is one of the few natural skin care products "proven in clinical trials to forestall and reverse the aging process, enabling users to often reverse the appearance of facial aging by 5-7 years in many cases." These trials have proven hyaluronic acid's ability to counter free radicals, treat oxidants caused by ultraviolet radiation, smooth wrinkles and folds and moisturize skin.

Understanding Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a viscous, gel-like polysaccharide that naturally occurs in the body. Its main function is to act as a lubricant and cushioning agent for eyes, skin, hair, joints and nerves. Half of the body's supply of hyaluronic acid occurs in skin tissue, keeping skin soft, plump and supple. As the body ages, its ability to produce hyaluronic acid declines, leading to dry skin, fine lines and sagging skin. According to Dr. Meschino, the loss of hyaluronic acid causes the skin to dehydrate from the inside out, thinning the skin and facilitating wrinkles.

Advances in Topical Use of Hyaluronic Acid

There was some initial controversy regarding the efficacy of the polysaccharide as a topical treatment. Particularly, that unless the hyaluronic acid is injected into the skin, its molecules are too big to be absorbed through the skin's surface. Advances have since been made to combat this limitation by delivering hyaluronic acid into the skin through nanoparticle technology, a method for reducing the size of a molecule while maintaining its molecular structure. In a 2012 research published by "Skin and Allergy News," 93 percent of 100 women participating in a study to determine the efficacy of hyaluronic acid delivered through nanotechnology topical application reported "good" or "excellent" results in improving skin elasticity, radiance and smoothness.

Hyaluronic Acid in Moisturizers

What makes hyaluronic acid an ideal ingredient in moisturizers is its molecule's ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water. This far exceeds the capability of other biological substances. As a humectant, hyaluronic acid prevents the skin from losing moisture. Dr. Leslie Bauman, board-certified dermatologist, researcher, lecturer and author, advises caution when using the acid in dry climates, as "this water-binding ingredient can’t draw moisture from the environment, so it may actually start to pull moisture out of the deeper layers of your skin." Additionally, oily skin types may benefit more from hyaluronic acid than dryer skin.

Hyaluronic Acid in Makeup

Hyaluronic acid's vast reputation has moved its use beyond creams and serums. Walk through any beauty aisle, and you'll find hyaluronic acid as an ingredient in not just moisturizers, but also in blushes, foundations, primers, eye shadow, mascara, lipsticks and lip gloss. Hyaluronic acid is added to foundations and primers to create the appearance of plump, radiant skin and in lipstick and lip gloss to suggest fuller lips. In mascara, the acid replenishes moisture in lashes, making them elastic and supple.